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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

Archive for November, 2009

DHS moves quick to protect us from…Monsterpocalypse!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Miniature Monsters Attack America

In July the Department of Homeland Security acted swiftly to protect America’s cities from Martians, giant dinosaurs, and Lovecraftian horrors from another dimension. The DHS intercepted the first shipment of a strategy guide for the role-playing game Monsterpocalypse—in which players attempt to conquer the planet using “collectible miniatures portraying the most fearsome giant monsters on Earth!”—when it arrived in the United States.

“There was a lot of head shaking,” says William Shick, a marketer at the guide’s publisher, Privateer Press. “We thought it was ridiculous.” Shick had a hard time convincing his loyal customers that the episode wasn’t an elaborate, publicity-seeking hoax. The company remains unsure why the government flagged the guide and held up its release for a week, though Shick speculates that “certain words like base caused red flags.”

This isn’t the first time gamers have had trouble with the law. In a 1990 raid on the offices of Steve Jackson Games, Secret Service agents seized copies of a guide to GURPS Cyberpunk, claiming the game’s rules were a “handbook of computer crime.”

Sigh.

New Mexico says no to Real ID, residents can’t travel?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Officials Press Congress To Act On ID Law

In less than six weeks, the federal government will be treating New Mexicans as foreigners, as your state driver’s license may no longer get you through airport security.

New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Rick Homans said a new federal law called “The Real ID Law” is putting your driver’s license in jeopardy to be used for travel security.

“Right now it’s a game of chicken, between the federal government and the state governments,” Homans said.

The Bush administration passed the law, designed to stop terrorists from entering the country, after Sept. 11, 2001. All 50 states have to comply with its regulations by Jan. 1, 2010.

Sec. Rick Homans said the clock is ticking and New Mexico is nowhere near close.

“The way it is right now, come Jan. 1st, residents of New Mexico and residents of about 25 other states wouldn’t be allowed to board airplanes unless they had a valid passport.”

The biggest issue is that New Mexico gives driver’s licenses to foreign nationals and illegal immigrants, which under the new law, would be illegal. The Obama administration has been promising to modify the law, but so far no action has been taken.

Cop killer was released by Huckabee

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Four police slain in ‘targeted ambush’ near Washington air force base

Four police officers were gunned down in an execution-style ambush at a coffee shop in Washington state, triggering a manhunt for a convicted armed robber with a history of violence.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer said the victims were sitting at a table in the cafe before their shift when a lone gunman entered and started shooting at around 8:15 am (1615 GMT) local time.

“We have somebody out there who blatantly went in and opened fire on four police officers, killing all four of them,” Troyer said following the shooting near McChord Air Force base in Tacoma, south of Seattle.

Late Sunday the identities of the victims — who were all wearing uniform including bulletproof vests at the time of the attack — were released.

The Seattle Times reported that he has eight felony charges in Washington state and five felony convictions in Arkansas. He had been in jail in Pierce County for several months until recently, pending a charge of second-degree rape of a child.

Clemmons served only a fraction of a 35-year prison term in Arkansas before his sentence was controversially commuted by the state’s then Governor Mike Huckabee, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, the Times added.

Hopefully this will be enough of a Willie Horton moment to keep Huckabee’s theocratic hectoring ass out of the running in 2012.

Happy Birthday Origin of the Species!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Happy 150th Anniversary On the Origin of Species!

November 24, 1859, 150 years ago today, saw the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. All 1,250 copies of the initial print run of the book were scooped up by readers eager to see the British naturalist going rogue with his radical new theory of evolution. Every since then much has been written about what, exactly, evolution is.

It’s the operating manual for the planet, and anyone who says otherwise is being purposely dishonest…or bone stupid and deluded by mythology.

The truth about taxes: The poor pay more

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

After years of tax revolting, this Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report asks, who exactly is paying taxes at the state and local level? Who has benefited the most, in tax terms, from the Tax Revolt the Tea Party zealots are now so fervently seeking to extend?

The answer: The rich have benefited the most. The Tax Revolt that began back in the late 1970s has, in state after state, let the affluent off the tax hook.

In fact, notes the new Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy analysis, “nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy.”

What do the rich do with the money they didn’t pay in taxes? They hire a Congress and a president to assure they will always have someone else to pay them.

FDIC goes bust

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

FDIC insurance fund closes quarter $8.2 billion in debt

As the number of problem U.S. banks swells to the hundreds, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is increasingly hard-pressed to fill in the gaps where institutions have put depositor’s funds at risk.

Unfortunately, a dire prediction made by government officials in early 2009 has come true: the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund is now broke, according to published reports.

“The deposit insurance fund dropped by $18.6 billion during the third quarter of 2009 to negative $8.2 billion, as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. set aside $21.7 billion in provisions for additional bank failures,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “This is the second time in the agency’s history that the balance has fallen into negative territory.”

Pretend money had fueled real money…and now the pretend money is gone. We ain’t seen bad yet.

Another thing he ain’t gonna change: the Patriot Act

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Obama Quietly Backs Patriot Act Provisions

NEW YORK, 23 Nov (IPS) – With the health care debate preoccupying the mainstream media, it has gone virtually unreported that the Barack Obama administration is quietly supporting renewal of provisions of the George W. Bush-era USA Patriot Act that civil libertarians say infringe on basic freedoms.

And it is reportedly doing so over the objections of some prominent Democrats.

When a panicky Congress passed the act 45 days after the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, three contentious parts of the law were scheduled to expire at the end of next month, and opponents of these sections have been pushing Congress to substitute new provisions with substantially strengthened civil liberties protections.

But with the apparent approval of the Obama White House and a number of Republicans – and over the objections of liberal Senate Democrats including Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois – the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to extend the three provisions with only minor changes.

Those provisions would leave unaltered the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail in the course of counterterrorism investigations.

Calling all tea-party dimwits: THIS is what you should be marching about…but you won’t, will you? Because the loss of your civil liberties is okie doke, just so long as there are little brown bugga buggas to be afraid of. This is nothing to worry your empty little heads about, now finish painting that “Keep Socialism out of Medicare!” sign, you big patriot you.

Breaking news: Fox to cease all programming!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Isn’t that what this means?

In wake of misleading Palin footage, Fox News institutes ‘zero tolerance for on-screen errors.’

Last Thursday, Fox News issued an on-air apology after ThinkProgress reported that the network had recycled old file footage of Sarah Palin rallies to assert that she is currently getting huge turnouts on her book tour. The file-footage switch-up came a week after The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart caught Fox’s Sean Hannity using old footage to inflate the size of a tea party, forcing Hannity to admit that he had “screwed up.” Now, FishbowlDC reports that Fox’s management has issued a memo declaring that “Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors”:

Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the “mistake chain,” and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to “zero base” our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough.

After the Palin footage mishap, The Swamp reported that it was “highly like[ly] that serious disciplinary action will be taken for those responsible behind the scenes in the control room.”

Fox News lies with every moment on air- the “mistake chain” is complete. Its what their audience demands- a reality-free environment where Palin is serious, Obama is a terrorist, and maintaining the status quo of the insurance industry is the only thing saving us from tyranny.

Serious demagoguery for the seriously anti-fact crowd.

Nice work if you can get it

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

David Freddoso: Your congressman’s padded retirement plan

After serving 18 years in Congress, former Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, a Democrat, will continue his service in a different federal institution — prison. He was sentenced recently to serve 13 years for bribery.

But his fellow prisoners will have to forgive Jefferson if he grins and whistles as he stamps out license plates. That’s because he is still eligible for a guaranteed $50,000 pension in his first year of retirement, which will increase each year thereafter with the cost of living.

Congressmen who serve for at least five years get a very generous defined benefit pension plan in retirement — the kind that doesn’t exist anymore in the private sector because it’s impossible to fund. It’s far more generous than that of even the longest-serving federal employees.

Members who took office before 1984 get the best deal — a generous 2.5 percent of the average of their top three years’ salary for each year of service. Their total includes years of military and other government service.

Although the payout in the first year of retirement is limited to 80 percent of their last year’s salary, it grows automatically each year with the cost of living. Appropriations Chairman David Obey, for example, could quit his job this January and take home $139,200 in 2010. In a decade or so, with cost-of-living adjustments, he could be making more than his current salary of $174,000. He isn’t the only one.

To get that kind of deal in retirement, you would need at least $2 million in your 401(k) and a healthy bull market from now until you die.

Not to mention that revolving door between Congress and K Street, why these fine public servants really rake it in. A small token of our respect for their years of sacrifice.

Corps at fault in Katrina flooding

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Judge: Corps’ negligence caused Katrina flooding

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval sided with five residents and one business who argued the Army Corps’ shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He said, however, the corps couldn’t be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where one of the plaintiffs lived.

Duval awarded the plaintiffs $720,000, or about $170,000 each, but the decision could eventually make the government vulnerable to a much larger payout. The ruling should give more than 100,000 other individuals, businesses and government entities a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages.

Joe Bruno, one of the lead plaintiffs lawyer, said the ruling underscored the Army Corps’ long history of failure to properly protect the New Orleans region.

“It’s high time we look at the way these guys do business and do a full re-evaluation of the way it does business,” Bruno said.